Investing South of the Border

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By Jim Scherrer

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Let’s start out by assuming that you’re a pretty savvy investor; your 401k, IRA, or personal investments have kept up with the S&P 500 average during the past ten years and you’ve lost only about 35% of your life’s savings! Did you realize that the Mexican Exchange Traded Fund (EWW) which represents the Mexican stock market, even though it was annihilated during the current recession along with all other markets throughout the world (but is recovering rapidly), has advanced by 200% during the same time frame? In other words, $100 invested in the S&P 500 in 1999 would now be worth $65, whereas if it were invested in the Mexican EWW fund it would now be worth $200. Please refer to the ten year graph in order to see the comparisons between these two areas of investment and perhaps you can speculate as to where might be the best market to place your next bet!
 
We have lived in Puerto Vallarta during the entire ten year period and have witnessed the changes and growth firsthand. As the economy has boomed, unemployment in Vallarta has been virtually eradicated while the population has doubled, prices for materials, labor, and land have tripled, and of course, real estate prices have also tripled.
 
Now, let’s compare this growth and real estate value appreciation in PV to what has been experienced in the US. The latest government released graph from the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) shows that average housing prices in the US appreciated by nearly 70% from 1999 through 2006. Since then, the rate of appreciation has dropped precipitously until the fourth quarter of 2007 when values actually started depreciating. Throughout all of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009, prices have plummeted by about 10% and as you can see in the graph, we can project prices to fall by another 5-10% before they once again start appreciating. In other words, the average investment in housing in the US made 10 years ago will have increased in value by 40-50% by the end of 2009. Even though housing values have recently been crushed, real estate has still way outperformed the stock market during the past ten years; hopefully, your real estate gains have more than offset your stock market losses!
 
With the US real estate market currently experiencing a serious recession, no real appreciation in housing values is expected for at least two more years. In summarizing, most Americans have enjoyed roughly a 40-50% gain in their property value over the past ten years and can expect the equity in their residence to be, at best, essentially dead money for the next couple of years.
 
When we compare the above data to what we’ve experienced in Vallarta, where real estate values have tripled during the past decade, we can only thank our lucky stars for letting us be among the first to participate in the ongoing land rush in Paradise! Fortunately for the about-to-retire baby boomers, it’s not too late.
 
Due to the extreme demand in second homes and retirement properties in resort destinations, Vallarta has witnessed an explosive ten year period of growth. So much so, that with the current global recession, the developers of the large condominium projects requiring long term planning, financing, and construction have been caught totally off guard. Once they committed, most of them (the reputable and fully capitalized ones!) felt it necessary to complete their projects regardless of sales. Consequently, with the recession driven reduction in demand and a supply of more than 7,000 units, prices for new condos are at a bargain basement level with some of the developers selling their surplus inventory at not much above their cost. This is truly a buyer’s market in PV for new condos however this supply/demand imbalance has had minimal effect on the value of existing condos.
 
The situation regarding the resale of existing homes and condos south of the border is entirely different than in the US. In Mexico, there are seldom any promotions or transfers requiring a housing upgrade or relocation, i.e., business related issues almost never require the sale of a resort property. Also, very seldom do owners decide to upgrade or downsize once they own a retirement property. More importantly, almost all real estate purchases in Mexico have been done on an all cash basis and therefore, regardless of the economy, there are no foreclosures on these fully owned properties. Mortgages became readily available in Mexico about five years ago however they require at least 20% down and substantial documentation proving one’s ability to pay. (Sorta like the good ol’ days in the US!) With this kind of financially solid buyer and this level of equity, there are virtually no foreclosures in Mexico. Although the rate of sales of existing properties has slowed to a snail’s pace, in the absence of foreclosures, prices of resale properties have held up fairly well; certainly not plummeting as in the US.
 
As we look to the future, we see very promising growth in the Mexican Bolsa as well as in Mexican real estate sales. In fact, FONATUR, the Mexican Tourism Board is still forecasting explosive growth in the Nayarit Riviera area, just north of Puerto Vallarta, during the next decade; only time will tell. As they say, “past performance is no guarantee of future results”! Assuming the global economy eventually rebounds, it is a given that the millions of baby boomers, just starting to retire, will be heading south for the benefits that Mexico has to offer. When this stampede of boomers hit the beaches in Vallarta, real estate prices that have been essentially flat for a couple of years, will continue escalating.
 
Aside from the fact that we have seven months of perfect winter weather in PV from November through May, when the average temperature is 73*F with virtually no rain and blue skies, we have eight magnificent golf courses, hundreds of tennis courts, world class deep sea fishing, hundreds of fine restaurants, clean food and water, and 50,000 other gringos to play and party with, our portfolios of stock and real estate investments south of the border are “en fuego”!
 
If you’re recently retired or considering retirement in the near future and you’re the savvy investor that you think you are, you really ought to check out the investments that lie south of the border; enjoy your retirement to its ultimate, and put your dead money to work for you in beautiful Puerto Vallarta.
 
Jim Scherrer has owned property in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for 26 years and resided there for the past twelve years. The mission of his series of 61 articles pertaining to retirement in Puerto Vallarta is to reveal the recent changes that have occurred in Vallarta while dispelling the misconceptions about living conditions in Mexico. For the full series of articles regarding travel to and retirement in Vallarta as well as pertinent Puerto Vallarta links, please visit us at PVREBA.

 

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